It’s impossible to remember our traditional energy bars/ health snacks now when stores are full of exotic gourmet energy bars. These have all the health benefits for us but not for environment. It will be difficult for you to guess what our traditional energy bar is as it’s been neglected for long. It was so popular once that it used to be served on festivals and was sold by shops as well as by cycle vendors (pheriwalas).
Let’s look at what energy bars have and how ours have been sidelined. Energy Bars are meal supplements which give quick energy according to a web definition. Quick energy is needed when going for a strenuous physical activity or for sugar dips in people having type 2 diabetes or for people who need a nutrition packed meal substitute. So energy bar should give quick energy as well as nutrition.
For this purpose energy bars have a simple carbohydrate like sugar, some grains for slow energy release, nuts and seeds for protein and a binder which usually is the sugar. These are all chopped up, mixed and baked to harden. It’s so simple but when non-local ingredients are used it adds to the food miles. When latest superfoods like quinoa, chia, berries, nuts are used to make a bar it’s not at all environment friendly. Then comes the binder like corn syrup which we all know comes from GM corn. Adding to this artificial flavors or sweeteners and preservatives are added making it a totally unhealthy meal.
There is a traditional answer to the energy bar. It has many varieties just like the existing energy bars and made with locally available ingredients. In fact one variety has Indian superfood “Amaranth or Ramdana” in it . Sweetener cum binder is the good old Jaggery which has many benefits. You guessed it correctly it’s the famous North Indian sweet “Gajak or Patti”. It is roasted seeds or nuts mixed with jaggery syrup in a simple rustic way.
All varieties of grains like puffed rice, wheat, ragi flakes and nuts and seeds are used to make gajaks.
Since the earth is round traditionally we have preferred energy balls over their cousins -bars. Different varieties of dry fruit laddus are very popular. They contain flours, nuts, seeds, dates and edible gum. The last two are the binders.
Though we don’t bake it we need lots of ghee/butter to give it a shape and which can be avoided. Also dried plums can be used as a binder for diabetic people. Sesame, amaranth, peanut, dates, figs prunes, cashew, almond, coconut all are easily available in our country and grown locally. Sugar cane or palm jaggery are our local healthy substitute for white sugar containing iron and other essential nutrients. Bars made in this way use very little of jaggery, minimal butter and can stay for long without adding any preservative.
When trying with combinations ones imagination and taste is the limit . Almost all nuts and grains can be made into bars this way. Last week I tried amaranth almond prune bars which is in the featured image. So go ahead and try Indian Energy Bar/Ball.